Photo: Sarah Raal
A people are what its women are. The woman is the conscience of her nation as well as the measure of its values. The moral life of a nation is controlled by the women and by the women can we measure the moral condition of the people. – Postma
I have a very famous poem of a very famous South African poet to celebrate Women’s Day in South Africa. “Die Vrou” – in English “The Woman”. She translated some of her works in English/German/Italian/French and Hebrew and won many prizes in South Africa and in the Netherlands. She was born in 1915 and died in 2007 in Amsterdam. Sarah Raal [picture] was one of those strong women during the South African/British War [Boer War] and she fought alongside the Boer Soldiers. You can read this book written by her:
Somer en herfs en winter trek in wye
onafgebroke wisseling deur die land,
maar sy bly draer van die lente want
liefde het haar verhef bo die getye.
Haat en verwoesting plant hul lamfervlae
in honderd stede en oral sink die nag;
vir háár op wie ook bloed en worsteling wag
klink nog die lied van vrede en welbehae.
Die uitgeteerde ruiter neig sy sens
en aarselend voor die klaarheid van haar blik
erken selfs hy sy heerskappy se grens:
in haar wat die onsterflikheid bewaak
ontkiem die toekoms in die flou getik
van lewe wat voorwêreldlik ontwaak.
Tomorrow, 9th August, South Africa celebrate’s Women’s Day. I’ve decided to create a special entry on Women. I have for you photos from family – both sides – dated back just before the 1800’s.
I agree with the above quote from Postma. Women are the anchor of a nation and if women are not taking the lead when it comes to morals and values, well, then its tjaila-time [like we say in South Africa] for a nation. We as women need to conduct ourselves in a way that our children can look upon us, be proud and so be proud adults too. I’ve come across a very interesting piece of writing and copied part of the article here. The complete article can be read on the given link at the bottom of this entry. The photographer of the first image was Mosely and the picture was taken in Lydenburg, SA. Unfortunately no exact date on the picture itself.
British colonization and its positive, beneficial effects dominated nineteenth-century South African historiography written in English. Dutch settlement, as well as the Great Trek and the founding of the Boer republics, was regarded as peripheral to the saga of British settlement and government at the Cape. Works by Noble (1877) and Wilmot and Chase (1869) remained the standard source material on South African history until G. M. Theal began to publish research based more closely on archival material, during the latter part of the century. The writings of Noble and of Wilmot and Chase portrayed Boers settlers outside the Cape Colony as ignorant, illiterate and cruel, as ‘living on the margin of civilisation’, their ‘moral condition … scarcely higher than the Hottentots or slaves who were household companions’.
During the last quarter of the century, especially after the mineral discoveries and the Boer victories during the Transvaal War of Independence (1880-1), such criticism began to be countered by an apologist approach to the Boers in both English and Dutch historical writings (the latter emanating from the Netherlands as well as the Boer republics). Historians such as Klok, Van der Loo, and Du Plessis took great pains to paint a positive picture of Boer society, drawing close parallels between the Boers and their exemplary European heritage.
In the new historiography Boer women received greater attention. They were described as extremely courageous and, owing to their sufferings in the past, were considered by some writers to be ‘the greatest patriots’. ‘Taking all the sufferings a mothers and daughters during the early days into account, it is indeed no wonder that it is amongst the female sex, especially amongst the older generation, that the greatest patriots are found’. These authors painted a detailed picture of the simple and unassuming Boer lifestyle, which was presented as an overt sign of a classless and egalitarian society. At the same time, their ordered and structured society was emphasised, by way of countering the negative images mentioned above. Van der Loo, in his work De Geschiedenis der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek aan het Volk, lavished praise on Boer women. Despite their contact with ‘wild barbarians’ and their isolation from civilisation, they remained true to their traditions of ‘virtue, moral sensibility’ political independence and free institutions’. An added dimension was their purported racial superiority and purity. Symbol of her racial purity, the white complexion of the Boer woman – despite exposure to the African wilderness – was highlighted by Lion Cachet, who maintained ‘a Transvaal woman is, for Africa white’ . This feature was likewise stress Klok in his description of Boer women. He also paid attention to their lips, implicitly contrasting them with Negroid features: ‘thin lips, a round chin and a white neck…. Seldom does one see ugly, that is, really ugly women’.
In the projects of these men there is a clear convergence between the development of the ideal of the volksmoeder and the rise of Afrikaner nationalism. In 1918 Postma (then retired because of ill-health) was requested by two Afrikaner organizations, the Nasionale Helpmekaar4 and the Kultuurvereniging of Reddersburg, to write a book entitled Die Boervrouw, Moeder van Haar Volk (The Boer Woman, the Mother of her Nation). The timing of this publication was important. It followed on the unveiling of the Vrouemonument, the Rebellion of 1914 and the termination of the First World War. The war was a significant event in the history of Afrikaner nationalism, for it was during this time that secondary industry, in particular labour intensive industries utilising mainly cheap female labour, began to flourish in South Africa. At the same time, a population explosion in the Afrikaner community, coinciding with the impoverishment of the rural areas, resulted in a massive influx of young, mostly unskilled Afrikaner men and women to this labour market in the urban areas. The presence of these unsupervised and unattached young men and women in the cities gave rise to grave concern for their moral safety in state, church and welfare organisations. In this social context, the characteristics of the Boervrouw as enumerated by Postma gained particular relevance for reformers, cultural entrepreneurs and concerned Afrikaners in general. His book was both an articulation of the already established image of the volksmoeder and a glorification of Afrikaner women, aimed at the instruction of Afrikaner youth and young girls in particular. In his writing the volksmoeder ideal was propagated as a role model for a new generation of women. This involved the emulation of characteristics such as a sense of religion, bravery, a love of freedom, the spirit of sacrifice, self-reliance, housewifeliness (huismoederlikheid), nurturance of talents, integrity, virtue and the setting of an exam others. Of particular significance is that Postma extended the prevailing notion of ideal womanhood to include their nurturing of the volk as well. For the first time the Boer woman’s role as mother and central focus of her family was expanded to include the concept of Boer women as mothers of the nation: The motherhood of the Boer woman extends itself to her volk just as it does to her child’ (Postma, 1918 164; translated). To substantiate his argument he cited the demonstration of Afrikaner women at the Union Buildings in 1915, when a delegation marched to Pretoria to protest against the capture imprisonment of General Christiaan de Wet as a rebel. The idea of demonstration had originated with women suitably connected prominent men and thus well qualified to be regarded as mothers of the nation’ – Mrs. Joubert, wife of the famous Boer general, and Elsie Eloff, the daughter of the late President Kruger. Yet the way in which Postman saw the demonstration taking form portrays a revealing disregard for the women’s initiative: ‘In true womanly fashion the call was complied with, without delay, not taking account of expense or trouble. Love called, love obeyed’ . The limitations of Postma’s perception of the women’s action are evident in these words: women did not argue, they did not stop to consider the consequences and they did not calculate the cost or the trouble of their actions. They were motivated irrationally, solely by love. But having disregarded any political significance in the women’s action, Postma weeded to link the moral strength of the Afrikaner people to that its women: ‘A people are what its women are. The woman is the conscience of her nation as well as the measure of its values. The moral life of a nation is controlled by the women, and by the women can we measure the moral condition of the people’ .
…. In it many of the characteristics already outlined by Postma emerge: Afrikaner women had a purifying and ennobling influence on their menfolk; they would sacrifice much for their families and were loyal housewives and tender nurses, earnest in prayer, sage in advice, with sat love of freedom and steadfastly anti-British. Stockenstrom maintained adamantly that Voortrekker women were ire of their calling as volksmoeders: ‘The women profoundly realised that they were the mothers of the future Afrikaner nation, and were fully conscious of the fact that their children and grand-children could never develop into a virtuous and glorious nation unless they were absolutely independent and free’.
Please click HERE to read the complete article.
Photo: A Teacher and her class – 1913, this image is from the same site as the website where you can read about Elizabeth Russel Cameron [next picture]. She was a remarkable lady and her history is a must read! You can read how she obtained the right to vote in a time in South Africa when women were not allowed to vote, but that was not the reason for what she’s done.
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